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Dartmouth man treks to Everest base camp

Halifax firefighter Andrew Maggio set a pretty high goal for himself. On Sunday he reached it, making it to a Mount Everest base camp a lofty 5,364 metres above sea level.

The eight-day trek up is taken at a relatively comfortable pace to allow participants to deal with the altitude, Maggio said in an email Tuesday.

“We would stop for 10 to 15 minutes at a time every 100-200 metres of elevation to help acclimatize a little easier,” he said during a break on the trip down, which takes about four days.

“Although myself and a few others from the group wanted to push on without resting, it was worth it to ensure the health and safety of the entire group.”

What is known as the south base camp is in Nepal. While the summit of Everest is 8,848 metres, getting to the base camp is still considered something for “active adventurers not afraid to break a sweat,” according to the tour company Maggio used.

The Dartmouth resident said he didn’t have to do too much extra fitness work to get ready for his adventure. Maggio, 35, is a full-time firefighter, which has its benefits.

“When it came to training, I’m fortunate that Halifax Fire and Emergency Services encourages a healthy lifestyle and, as such, all the fire stations have a treadmill, as well as some other fitness equipment. Most of my shifts leading up to this trip I tried to get in a short walking workout on the treadmill set on a decent incline while wearing either a weighted vest or my hiking backpack loaded up with some weight.”

Maggio, who’s also a primary-care paramedic with EHS Ground Ambulance Services, said he tries to stay active in his spare time with a membership at Crossfit Kinetics in Halifax, along with some swimming and outdoor running. Still, it’s possible for the base camp trip to take a toll.

“Each morning at the start of the hikes, I did find myself struggling to catch my breath until I could get into a comfort zone and control my breathing,” said Maggio.

“There was one member of our group who started succumbing to altitude sickness the morning after we reached base camp, so one of our guides took him to our next lodging early that morning in order to get him down to a lower altitude a little faster.”

The Everest hike had been on his mind for some time, but it’s not exactly a trip that can be put together on the spur of the moment.

“I’ve had a longing to go out and see the world for some time now, as I have never really travelled far from home growing up, but I just couldn’t decide where to start,” Maggio said.

“The Everest base camp idea all started five years ago when a paramedic co-worker of mine started talking about wanting to do the hike. The more she talked about it, the more interested I became and decided to join her. We had chosen May 2015 as our date, traveling with G Adventures, and had everything booked when the earthquake struck Nepal that April, forcing us to cancel our plans.

“I still had Everest base camp on my mind since then, but after starting a new job with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Services the following year, I had to put my plans on hold. It wasn’t until this year that I was able to make my plans come to fruition.”

Even though it’s still in progress, Maggio said this trip has lived up to expectations.

“The views of Nepal are breathtaking, and the locals are so friendly. As amazing as it was to reach base camp, the early-morning hike to the top of Kala Patthar to watch the sun rise over the mountains was even more incredible, in my opinion, and Kala Patthar is approximately another 200 metres above Everest base camp’s 5364 metres. From Kala Patthar we were even able to spot a group of people making their way up Everest through the ice fields by seeing their headlamps in the distance through the dark.”

The trip appears to have kindled a strong desire to travel in Maggio. He said he’s keen to explore Cambodia and Africa.

“I always joke about a bucket list, but most of the time the list is comprised of foolish, unobtainable things,” he said.

“I’m sure I’ll discover more hikes and tours I’d like to attempt at some point.”

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